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In Professional Division (trainee) 16 year old male high schooler - ge


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My 16 year old son (now a junior in high school) was thrilled when he got accepted into the professional division of PNB and after many talks we decided to allow him to do this. I moved to Seattle with him (his other mother stayed at our home about 5 hours away) so he could do this. In the past because of his dance schedule, he did some online school (which worked for about a year, but then was really not a good match) and then for part of last year (as a sophomore) he went to the community college and got concurrent high school and college credits, which as far as school went he liked quite a bit and got a lot out of it and it allowed him to have a rigorous dance schedule. Still, the schedule and demands of a small town/city studio (despite his amazing teacher who had a thrilling career) is not the same as being in the professional division of a major company. We had hoped he could do the community college program here, but his schedule is not only intense but also not consistent (different for weeks when they have rehearsals and performances) and he really didn't want to do online school again. He's also the youngest in the pd and although there are some 17 year olds, they are mostly done with school. There are a couple of girls, he tells me, who are seniors and doing online school, but the first year pd girls schedule is not quite as rigorous. He's always done well in school, especially math and science, and did well in the community college too. I write and teach and am happy to make up curriculum for him with the assistance of some online curriculum too. I try to make it relevant for him, always have a dance component (e.g., he read the chosen and i had him do a unit on religious dancing). We have told him he can take his GED at the end of the year and I'm starting to have him study for that.


Here's the issue. While being an excellent student, he is sort of a dreamer and reads rather slowly. His grade school teachers used to say he had the best spelling sentences, but that was because he would spend a ton of time thinking about a variety of sentences and deciding which one was best. At the moment, he's really not motivated to do school and does it almost completely because he knows we are "making him" do it, although he says the work is interesting. He says he knows he is going to be a professional dancer (and being in the pd of a major company on full scholarship at 16 and a male makes me think that's certainly a very good chance of that) and so he's not motivated to do school and he just wants to dance and learn about dance (he feels a little like other kids have had more experience with bigger places than he). When I say he might need the education later, he says after his career he's going to choreograph and teach (which he likes to do).


I go back and forth constantly about how much work to give him, what's really important to learn, etc. He comes home and might take an hour and half or so to eat dinner and another 30 -40 minutes for cleaning up and I tell him he doesn't have time for that, that he needs to get his school work done or at least some reading. I don't know if he's avoiding or just exhausted from all the dancing, as well as other strains for a 16 year old (like being away form his friends), though he says he LOVES it and is getting the training he NEEDS and it was the right decision. I see dance wise it was definitely the right decision, he needed more challenges, but I'm concerned about his schooling (and I'm isolated as other PD parents arent' here with their kids cause their kids are older and home school people are in a different situation). I know I'm very academically oriented myself, so I struggle there and know with his grades and a GED, minimally he could go back to community college (he already has 12+ college credits) if he ever wanted to go to college. I don't want to argue with him all the time, which we are doing a lot, but i DO think he needs to still have some basics -- history, science, various cultural things, writing. He's not like some of the kids I hear about in ballet forums - the super organized, ap students, while doing X# of hours a week for ballet, but he is a good student when he is focused on that, has an A average, but he is very slow and not really motivated at the moment. He does seem to be a more experiential learner, but there's often little time for that kind of thing with a little break in the afternoon and a couple hours at nite (and sometimes not with rehearsals). I read about 'unschooling" and think about that some - maybe he should just read a lot and surely he's being disciplined to do the program he's in, but...Sigh. help???

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My knee-jerk response is that he should finish high school, whether it's with a diploma or GED--definitely finish it. There is SO much more to being an artist than taking ballet technique classes. His intelligence and thoughtfulness will definitely serve him well in his career, but intelligence on its own is not really enough; experience with different ideas, ways of thinking, etc. are also very important. Besides...what if he gets injured?


I finished high school a year early while attending a prestigious vocational ballet program--it was not that the academic school I attended was less rigorous than the public school honours program I'd come from, but it was definitely less padded out with electives (it was a school for children in the performing arts, so they realised that ballet was my elective :) ). Sure, I was glad when it was over--I loved learning new things but hated all the time homework took up--but there was never a question that I would finish it.


As this is the second post I've read today about ballet students having trouble completing their academics, I wonder just what is going on with these ballet schools. Yes, intensive ballet training is important if you're going to be a professional dancer, but IMO the message should be that students need to complete their academics because the career of a dancer is short--and after it there are a thousand variables. Teach? Good luck finding a full-time teaching position that truly pays the bills. Most of them just don't--and teacher training is prohibitively expensive. Choreograph? Similar difficulties, with the added problem of being a freelance worker, unless you're one of very few choreographers in residence in the world. Think about how many dancers there are in a studio vs. how many teachers or choreographers--that's a lot of competition for not many jobs. I really hate to give that message to a teenager because I remember being a talented 16 year old. You feel as if you can do anything, and you want to focus on what you're good at. And that is important. But also important is the unfortunately harsh reality that you cannot count on not needing an academic education for your entire life.

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Very well presented, Hans. :clapping: I have nothing to add, tova. Hans is right on, and it really is important that he finish high school. You never know where life is going to take you, in the ballet world or any other world for that matter. Not having at least a high school education is really not an option these days.

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Can you structure a program for him that involves an online school/program where you are actually doing the teaching? We used that with my DS as a Freshmen. He attended a prepro school for two years then came back to the online program to finish the two credits that they required for his diploma. He now has a high school diploma that is recognized/accredited so if he ever gets the urge to go to college he can. Will it be an Ivy League? No. But he's not an Ivy League student.


My DH and I are also very academically inclined, have numerous degrees between us, and love school and learning. We think our children should pursue it. For DS, however, we adopted an attitude of just get it over and done with. It wasn't lack of ability but lack of interest. We used Keystone because the courses can be completed fairly quickly. If you DS is adept at learning, he could move through courses in that program very quickly. If you have the time and are engaged perhaps he won't find it so boring. My DS could never sit down and go through the courses alone. If I sat with him and taught him the material they were teaching, he was fine with it. If time is a limitation, then keep in mind that the AP courses that they offer, and that so many of the dancers on this board seem to thrive in, aren't required.


Would something like that be a happy medium? Using one or two hours a day, he could, honestly, finish three casses in about three months. Using his college credits he could be that much farther ahead. Once his schedule opens up, if he has the time, he can do college classes.


While we used Keystone, there are a number of other similar programs. Keystone worked for our DS because it was fairly engaging, allowed him to move quickly (to avoid the attention drag), could be designed so that I provided oversight, didn't require a set schedule, and tests that didn't need to be proctored. Plus the tests focused on writing skills as opposed to memorizing data for the eventual data dump later on. DS does have a few friends that opted for the GED route. Depending on the state that can be a viable option. Some states have incredibly difficult GED tests that require a lot of focused reading in specific material. If your DS is a slow reader, that route might become dreadfully painful :)

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In complete agreement with Hans. Get the education! There are too many variables involved with working in this profession to not give yourself options. Most of those variables are out of our control. Injury being a huge one. Trust me, i've seen my share of incredible artists have their career shortened as a result. (If you think worker's compensation covers the end of a dancers career, think again. I know every state is different but here, if you can sit at a computer your settlement is a few weeks pay. That's from 1st hand knowledge unfortunately.) Economy is another. EVERY company, even the big dogs, has experienced cut backs at one point or another. Those cutbacks are not limited to the management side and will usually include a dancer contract or two. One company I was with, experienced a cut of 10 contracts in one year, and we had the largest endowment in the US.


I am not trying to scare anyone away from their pursuit of this irreplaceable career! BUT, keep your options open! Even with a successful performing career, you will have to have another career when that ends. And it ends all too soon. As Hans said, there are only so many positions available for ballet masters and choreographers. LESS than when you were trying to get a contract as a dancer!

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You have received excellent advice from the Teachers, who have all been professional dancers in wonderful companies. Cheetah has given great first-hand experience advice.


I think it is important to remember and keep this in mind: Your job, as a parent, is to raise a productive, well-rounded citizen. It is NOT your job, as a parent, to raise a DANCER. First things first: a high school education is the bare minimum a person needs in this day and age to begin to make his or her own way in the world and our society. And it is actually the minimum educational benchmark required. Many, many jobs will require a college degree of some type before an applicant will even be considered.


It is all well and good that he has this wonderful training opportunity, but he still has 'chores' to do that are important to his future that must be done as well. There will be time for that intense training, but he must do these academic chores in order to be ready for his professional career, be it dance or otherwise.


Injuries happen in the blink of an eye . . . and are never planned and often unheralded.

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Thank you all for the support. It's well appreciate. We feel he must take his GED at least and are clear that he has to at least have that or a high school diploma and, with that and his community college credits, he could at least get into a community college and go that route. It's a bit kicking and screaming though. Also, PNB is very clear on their application that if you have not finished high school you have to have a plan to do so and they seldom take kids my son's age (and i think school is probably part of the reason). They also have a program called second step which is to help dancers post career and/or help dancers go to college while they are dancing. They even have a deal with a local college that I think comes to the studio and does one class a semester with the kids here (and I think the PD kids can do it if they are college age and get accepted). We thought we'd be okay with either some combo of home school and online, but it's being a struggle with his schedule now that the reality is here.


It will be a big struggle to get him to do the GED but that will be minimal. I think what I'm trying to figure out is aside for studying to the test, what is that "well rounded" person and how much work to give him given his recalcitrance to do school work - which is part, i'm just going to be a dancer, and i think part his schedule is so intense (more than i thought it would be). I don't want to argue with him all the time, I don't want to push him past his limits, and he's just not that super organized, fast to do stuff person in his life (though as I tell him he surely manages to get to dance class all the time and do what he needs to there). We repeatedly tell him that he signed a contract with us (that we made up) that he would be responsible to school work if we let him do this, which he swore up and down he'd be attentive to, but really he's not and nagging him all the time isn't very effective. I know injuries happen and tell him that and ask him if the dancers going to college inspire him to maybe do that too and he says no, he just wants to be a dancer/choreographer/teacher. He's 16 and hard to explain as I try to that life doesn't always go in the way you want it and you don't know what will happen AND that you need to have other "education" even if you do wind up being a dancer then choreographer and teacher - you have to have emotion, knowledge, etc. to create, be aware, bring yourself to the dance, etc. And while he'll agree some, the dailyness of his motivation is not there. He's not a real rebellious kid in a loud way, he just quietly doesn't really do it, or he spaces out while he's doing it, or takes a really long time washing the dishes. When I read about other kids in his position they are often getting up at 6am to work a couple hours before dance and working til midnite taking ap classes or something and i know that won't work for him (despite having an A average before), but I need to find some place in between-- should he just read the paper everyday and watch dance videos? should he read classics and write essays and do chemistry (which actually he likes doing)? Every week it's a struggle. Getting the support to do the education at least some is helpful - and it's good to remember I don't have to raise a dancer, rather a person, which has always been our intent, but everything does seem ratched up more now - we're not in kansas anymore. I'll look into keystone too - i think i did before but don't remember. THANK YOU ALL for taking the time to answer. Just hearing stories and support from people who are or have been there helps for another day of trying to figure out balance. Using the word "chores" is a good one, as he does have weekly chores to help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, and he pretty much does those, so maybe i should just tell him school is one of his chores and he has to get it done like the others.Thank you all again. I look forward to more reading.

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Having been a teenager and now having one - my advice would be to have the inspiration to finish school come from someone other than you.


Your quote reminds me that sometimes they (teenagers) simply cannot hear certain information coming from their parents.

"He's 16 and hard to explain as I try to that life doesn't always go in the way you want it and you don't know what will happen AND that you need to have other "education" even if you do wind up being a dancer then choreographer and teacher - you have to have emotion, knowledge, etc. to create, be aware, bring yourself to the dance, etc. And while he'll agree some, the dailyness of his motivation is not there."


I am wondering if there is anyone at PNB or his former school that could serve as a mentor...maybe someone who was a fabulous dancer and then has something to share about their academic background that would send more of a message to your son. He is obviously disciplined in class so he needs some reason to be able to apply that focus to his academic life. Maybe that can come from someone else he admires that perhaps "know more about the dance world than you do, dad"....

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I have to say, I was that 16 year old boy that wanted nothing more than dancing. I hated being in school, doing the homework, and wasting my time with my non-dancing peers. I was more than inspired to take ballet class, and rehearse all day... but school work, not so much. I also wanted to be a teacher/choreographer/ballet master after my professional career.


Now that I have retired from performing professionally, I am grateful for my education, even if it is just a high school diploma. I did end up becoming a ballet teacher - I regularly use math & physics in my ballet classes. I also have my own small costume business - lots of math & writing here! I also run a small student ballet company - which involves a lot of community interaction, politics, and writing.


All of these skills were refined in an academic setting, not in the ballet studio.

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Finding a mentor is a good idea. I think I might know someone, a friend of a friend who is a former dancer. Thanks. True enough, I may not be the right person to "convince" him of this.

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Given that this is the second post on this topic, I thought I would add an observation from a mother who is homeschooling but going through the public school charter system which means hitting all of the state standards and proving that you did. It is close to impossible to cover everything these days that is required which is why so many kids are sleep deprived. When I was in high school an hour of homework a night was the norm. My daughter reports that her friends have 3 and 4 hours a night and this is on top of doing all the activities that a "well-rounded" student is supossed to be doing and volunteering and doing chores, etc.


There are days I throw up my hands when it comes to covering all the material and I have taught college classes.


Check with your state homeschool group. I think Washington has similar homeschool regs to California but if not here are some options:




NARS - I know some people who are very happy with this program


Independent study that would allow him to CLEP exams and count them towards his graduation. I don't know if Beach High School is an option for Washington but I would check it out. Wes Beach specializes in helping students who are taking a non-traditional route and he has worked with ballet students before.

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Thanks, Kandi! I am looking into those things and they sound like possibilities that have potential, as they also give him goals outside of his mother's nagging, but still could work with his schedule and needs. I'm so grateful to have so many different suggestions to look into.

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Also know that your DS is not that unusual. Yes, there are dancers represented on this board that somehow love both school and dance. My DS was not one of those and I felt we had done something wrong. We tried the "contract" and allowed him to move out of state to train with an excellent teacher. He didn't do his school work. After that first chaotic year we went the route of a residency school where going to class was mandated. So he didn't have an option. When it came time for his senior year an opportunity presented itself to go to an excellent school. We simply said he could NOT go unless he finished those two classes required for his diploma through Keystone. Even with that it took a lot of nagging. Your son is not going to be dancing seven days a week. A good eight hours a day focused on school, especially if you can find a program that works for him, is actually enough if those are eight quality hours. Then he can supplement over holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The idea of pursing the GED is admirable, but it takes a lot of internal motivation. There are plenty of books out there with practice tests that can help you gauge where he stands in terms of being ready to take the test. He might actually be ready to pass it now. It might be as simple as taking a GED prep class which is usually offered on weekeneds and sometimes online. His motivation to prepare for it himself will be critical. I have three sons. My DS would never, ever read and study for a test like that. He had to have structure or he wouldn't do anything academic. Actually the first time he went out and bought a book on his own we thought the credit card had been stolen :) I have one son that is disciplined and focused but has to be taught information. And I have yet another who absorbs information like a sponge and actually spends hours in his room reading, watching the HIstory Channel, and visiting museums. He doesn't like to be "taught" and unfortunately often reads through class, though he somehow manages to absorb what is being said (something which is becoming more and more difficult to do as classes get more challenging.)


So if an online or charter program isn't an option for you then check out the GED prep classes, websites, and advisors. They would likely have the best advice for helping you structure something for your DS.


I do sympathize. Looking back I shudder at how much time I spent trying to shove academics at my son. Even setting deadlines, goals, and repercussions it was a still a challenge.

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thanks, Cheetah. That helps. Did you mean 8 hours a week or 8 hours on his day off (which he doesn't always have if he's in performances or understudying he has to be there, but that's not every week).

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